Discourse, 20 March 1842, as Reported by Wilford Woodruff
JS, Discourse, [, Hancock Co., IL, 20 Mar. 1842]. Featured version copied [ca. 20 Mar. 1842] in Wilford Woodruff, Journal, vol. 4, 1 Jan. 1841–31 Dec. 1842, pp. –; handwriting of ; Wilford Woodruff, Journals and Papers, 1828–1898, CHL. For more complete source information, see the source note for Discourse, 7 Nov. 1841, as Reported by Wilford Woodruff.
On Sunday, 20 March 1842, JS preached a discourse in , Illinois, on infant mortality and before what described as a “vast assembly” who met “at an early hour.” JS had intended to speak exclusively on baptism when he learned that Marian Lyon, the two-year-old daughter of and , had died the previous day. Woodruff wrote that the body of Marian Lyon was “presented in the assembly.” This was not the first occasion on which JS had cause to reflect on the death of a child. Infant mortality rates were high throughout the nineteenth century, and JS and his wife had lost six children, including a stillborn child the month before this discourse.
wrote that JS began, as he often did, by reading a chapter from the Bible. On this occasion he read Revelation 14. The chapter recounts John the Revelator’s vision of the Lamb on Mount Sion and the 144,000 who were “redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb.” Woodruff then recorded what he called “a brief synopsis of some of the items presented.” JS presented infant mortality as a warning to his audience not to delay repentance. He also spoke on baptism and other ordinances as “signs” that were necessary to receive God’s blessings. JS concluded by discussing resurrection, including that of little children.
wrote that JS’s remarks on death and resurrection “were in the highest degree interesting” and that his instruction on baptism “was truly glorious to the believer in Jesus Christ.” In the afternoon, JS baptized sixty to eighty individuals in the before the congregation adjourned to a grove, where JS and bestowed the upon many of those he had baptized.
may have inscribed his “brief synopsis” using notes taken during the discourse. Woodruff’s occasional use of quotation marks indicates his attempt to capture some of JS’s actual words. Woodruff’s journal report was used as the primary text for the sermon when it was printed in the 15 April 1842 issue of the Times and Seasons. Asterisks in Woodruff’s journal mark a passage that was not included in the published account, indicating a textual relationship between the versions. In addition, the Times and Seasons article includes a notation ascribing the report to Woodruff. Significant differences between the featured text and the Times and Seasons version are noted.
Woodruff, Wilford. Journals, 1833–1898. Wilford Woodruff, Journals and Papers, 1828–1898. CHL. MS 1352.
Easton, Susan Ward, comp. “Inscriptions Found on Tombstones and Monuments in Early Latter-day Saint Burial Grounds: Nauvoo, Illinois (Joseph Smith Homestead, Pioneer Saints Cemetery on Parley Street); Mt. Pisgah, Iowa; West Bank of the Niobrara River, Nebraska; Winter Quarters, Nebraska.” Unpublished paper. [Provo, UT], [ca. 1980]. Copy at FHL.
takes its flight for the realities of the eternal world are resting upon him in mighty power & when evry earthly support & prop fails him, he then sensibly feels the eternal truths of the immortality of the soul. Also the doctrin of Children or sprinkling them or they must welter in Hell is a doctrin not true not supported in Holy writ & is not consistant with the character of god The moment that children leave this world they are taken to the bosom of Abraham The ownly difference between the old & young dying is one lives longer in heaven & Eternal light & glory than the other & was freed a little sooner from this miserable wicked world Notwithstanding all this glory we for a moment loose sight of it & mourn the loss but we do not mourn as those without hope. (We should take warning & not wait for the deathbed to repent) As we se[e] the infant taken away by death, so may the youth & middle as well as the infant suddenly be called into <a great> eternity, Let this then proove as a warning to all not to procrastinate repentance or wait till a death bed, for it is the will of God that man should repent & serve him in health & in the strength & power of his mind in order to secure his blessings & not wait untill he is called to die.
“My intention (says the speaker) was to have treated upon the subject of Baptism, But having a case of death before, us I thought it proper to refer to that subject, I will now however say a few words upon that subject <Baptism> as intended God has made certain decreas which are fixed & unalterable for instance God [has] set the sun, the moon, the stars in the heavens, & gi[v]en them their laws conditions, & bounds which they cannot pass except by his command, they all move in perfect harmony in there sphere & order & are as wonders, lights & signs unto us, The sea also has its bounds which it cannot pass God has set many signs in the earth as well as in heaven for instance the oaks of the forest, the fruit of the tree, the herd of the field all bear a sign that seed hath been planted there, [p. ]